tv Pentagon Briefing on Syria Strikes CSPAN April 13, 2018 10:50pm-11:12pm EDT
in accordance to the chemical urgens convention, we responsibility to condemn the assad regime and join us in our firm resolve to stop chemical weapons from being used again. provide al will military update. gen. dunford: i am joined by [indiscernible] mattis just outlines the policy and parameters. at 9:00 p.m. eastern standard u.s. french, british and -- for their use of chemical weapons. we were integrated with operation. the targets that were struck and destroyed were specifically associated with the syrian
chemical weapons program. we also selected targets that would minimize the risk to innocent civilians. the first target was a scientific research center located in the greater damascus area. this military facility was a syrian center for research, development production, and , testing of chemical and biological warfare technology. the second target was a chemical weapons storage facility west of homes. we assess this was the primary location of syrian sarin and precursor production equivalent. the third target contained both chemical weapons equipment importantcility and command post. french naval and forces were involved. for reasons of operational security, i will not be more specific this evening. before we take questions, i would like to address how this is different.
last year we conducted a unilateral attack on a single on those from april of 2017. this evening we conducted strikes with two allies on multiple sites that will result in a long-term degradation of syria's capability to research, develop and deploy biological weapons. important infrastructure was destroyed, which will result in a setback for the syrian regime. they will lose years of research and development data specialized , equipment, and expense of chemical weapons precursors. the strike was not only a strong message to the regime that their actions were inexcusable, but it also inflicted maximum damage without unnecessary risk to innocent civilians. with of that, the secretary and i would be happy to take your questions. mr. secretary, did the u.s. suffer any losses
initially? and more broadly, the president in his remarks said the u.s. and its allies are prepared to untiln this operation syria stops using chemical weapons. does that mean the u.s. and its partners will continue military operations beyond this operation tonight? sec. mattis: that will depend on mr. assad, should he decide to use more chemical weapons in the future. and of course, the powers that have signed the chemical weapons prohibition have every region -- every reason to challenge assad, should he choose to violate that. right now, this is a one-time shot and i believe it sends a very strong message to dissuade him, deterred him, from doing this again. reporter: [indiscernible] sec. mattis: we want to give you
a full brief in the morning. right now we have no reports of losses. reporter: thank you for doing that. have you seen retaliation from the russians or iranians? how long do you think this operation would last? is it a matter of hours or days or could it go longer than that? we did have: initial surface activity from the syrian regime, that is the only retaliatory action we are aware of at this time. of the operation, we completed targets that were assigned from u.s. central command. those operations are complete. reporter: general dunford and secretary mattis, could you talk concerns youur expressed earlier in the week ?bout russian escalation general dunford, were you able to talk to your russian counterparts? what are your concerns about escalation. are you committed to ask your
british counterpart question? i would like to know the sense of your government about whether the situation with of the skripals and russian involvement in that. involvementsian played a role in your decision to enter this coalition this evening. gen. dunford: let me address the last point first. our attaches were kind enough to join us tonight. they will not get out in front of their president and prime minister respectively. national messages will be provided from their capital -- capitols soon. these targetsfy to mitigate the risk of russian forces being involved? we used normal beacon flexion ictionls -- deconfl channels. we did not pre-notify the russians on these strikes. secretary, a couple days you said you were assessing
the suspected chemical weapons attack. at this point, do know what the chemical was used in that attack? was it sarin or chlorine? what is your evidence delivered by the syrian regime? are you quite clear it was? sec. mattis: i am confident the syrian regime conducted -- a chemical attack on innocent people in this last week, yes, absolutely confident of it. levele the intelligence of confidence we needed to conduct the attack. reporter: as far as the actual chemical used, do know what it was? a nerve agent, chlorine? sec. mattis: we are very much aware of one of the agents. there may have been more than one agent used. we are not clear on that yet. we know at least one chemical agent was used. reporter: to clarify on deconfliction, you notified
russians ahead of time what you were going to do and what targets you would strike? gen. dunford: to be clear, the only communications that took place specifically associated with this operation before the targets were struck was the normal deconfliction of the airspace, the procedures that are in place for all of our procedures in syria. reporter: general dunford, you mentioned the syrian air defenses had engaged. the syrian state tv says they shot down 13 tomahawk missiles. can you refute that? jennifer, i cannot tell you the results. the time, as you know, on target was about an hour ago. we came straight up to her to give you the best information we have. tomorrow morning, the secretary will talk about in a moment, we will you a more detailed operational update and details, but those details are not available to us right now. reporter: the airstrikes are over? gen. dunford: this wave of
airstrikes is over. that is why we are out here talking to you now. reporter: secretary mattis, i want to talk to you about the legal basis for this strike. could you talk more about that? in your testimony the other day it sounded like you were saying a potential strike would be linked to self-defense and the presence of american forces in syria? can you say more about that? also, regarding whether there will be future action for additional strikes, you said they would depend on whether or government conducts chemical attacks. can you explain a little more about what would be the threshold for that. there were repeated chemical attacks between the april 2017 attack and today. would you consider a small-scale chlorine attack sufficient to launch additional strikes? sec. mattis: right now, i would tell you we are in close consultation with our allies. we reviewed all of the evidence all the time. it is difficult as you know to get evidence out of syria, but
right now we have no additional attacks planned. as far as the legal authority of therticle ii constitution, we believe the president has every reason to defend vital american interests, and that is what he did this evening, under that authority. what were the targeting difficulties or considerations going after chemical facilities? how long did the operation take to plan? last year's strikes were described as proportional, moderate. how would you describe this year's, in contrast? gen. dunford: we chose these particular targets to mitigate the risk of civilian casualties, number one. we chose these targets because they were specifically associated with the chemical program, the syrian chemical program. obviously, when we take a look at target planning we take a look at the location relative to
other populated areas collateral , damage, proportionality. these targets were carefully selected with proportionality, discrimination, and being related to the chemical weapons program. reporter: were there any manned air craft? gen. dunford: there were manned aircraft involved and we won't give you any details until tomorrow morning. we will do that at that time. reporter: question to secretary mattis. up until yesterday, i'm going to quote you here, you said, i cannot tell you that we have evidence. when did you become confident that the chemical attack had been? sec. mattis: yesterday. reporter: after you said that? sec. mattis: yes. reporter: second, you talked about targeting the chemical weapons infrastructure of assad. if there were any chemical weapons or agents in those facilities that you targeted, i assume they would create health hazards in the region, or no? gen. dunford: we don't believe. we did very close analysis, as
the chairman pointed out. we did everything we could in our intelligence assessment and our planning to minimize to the maximum degree possible any chance of civilian casualties. we are very much aware this is difficult to do in a situation like this, especially when the poison gas that assad assured the world he had gotten rid of obviously still exists. it is a challenging problem set and we have the right military officers dealing with it. reporter: you could confirm there would be no leak into the air? gen. dunford: of course not, we will do our best. reporter: general dunford, when the surface to air sensors engaged, did they become a target? did u.s. air power or other assets take out those targets? gen. dunford: i am not aware of any response. again, we will gather overnight, as you can imagine we try to leave united states central command alone
tonight. they were quite busy. we will, through the night gather operational detail and be back in the morning to give that to you. reporter: last time, last year you changed the protection levels for the syrian troops. there are 2000 u.s. troops in syria. have you changed force protection levels based on responses from russia? gen. dunford: as you can imagine, the commander always takes prudent measures, especially in the environment they were in tonight. they did make adjustments. reporter: just to be clear on the deconfliction line coming you told them you would be operating in airspace but you , didn't tell the russians what the targets were? gen. dunford: that is absolutely correct. we used normal deconfliction channels to deconflict the airspace we were using. reporter: what was their response? gen. dunford: that information was dispatched from qatar.
ist kind of information passed routinely, every day and every night. they may not have found anything particularly unusual about that airspace deconfliction. reporter: can you talk a little youabout any iran target initially considered and why you may not have gone for them? could your colleagues explain exactly the contribution you have made to tonight's operation? sec. mattis: again, our allied officers are here out of respect for the fact they were part of the mission from planning all the way to the political decision taken. once their heads of state speak tomorrow, that will be the initial statement from those capitals. but, as far as any other targets, we looked at targets specifically designed to address the chemical threat we have seen manifested.
the world watches in horror these weapons being used. those with only targets we were examining for prosecution. you mentioned three target areas that were struck. how can you be sure from now on these are all of the target it -- areas or all of the involved production facilities for chemical weapons the syrians are using? do you believe there are additional locations where they are producing such material? gen. dunford: that is a great question, we had a number of targets to select from. we did not select those that had a high risk of collateral damage and statistically -- specifically a high rate of civilian casualties. the modeling was done to make sure we mitigated the risk of chemical weapons in those facilities mitigate the risk , of civilian casualties. there were other targets we looked at and we selected these
based on the significance to the chemical weapons as well as the location and layout. reporter: secretary mattis, it seems like this strike tonight was pretty limited, not too dissimilar from last year. those three targets this time instead of one, but it still seems a little bit more targeted and specific than what a lot of people were expecting. can you walk us through your decision -- a concern about escalation with russia determine -- russia, did that affect your decision to keep this more targeted? how much assurance can you give us that this is going to do what the strike last year did not do, which was to stop president assad from using chemical weapons again? sec. mattis: nothing is certain in these kinds of matters. however, we used a little over double the number of weapons this year than we used last year. it was done on targets that we
believed were selected to hurt the chemical weapons program. confined itit -- we to the chemical weapons type targets. we were not out to expand this. we were very precise and proportionate, but at the same time, it was a heavy strike. reporter: mr. secretary, prior to the attack, how important was it to get the support from the allies? not only from an intelligence point of view, but from the countries themselves? sec. mattis: it is always important that we act internationally in a unified way over something, especially that is such an atrocity as this. that we have observed going on in syria. i would also tell you that these allies, the americans the , french, the british, we have operated together through thick and thin, through good times and bad.
this is a very, very well integrated team. wherever we operate, we do so with complete trust in each other, the professionalism, and more than that, the belief the other will be there when the chips are down. it is important and it is a statement about the level of trust between our nations. reporter: general dunford, were the syrians able to hide all these chemical weapons the last several days, there has been talk did it give the syrians , time to move them off-limits? secretary mattis, to confirm earlier when you are saying you had information about one of the chemicals. we are all assuming that means chlorine, not necessarily sarin, if you could clarify that part. gen. dunford: i am not aware of any specific actions the syrians took to move chemical weapons in the last couple days. sec. mattis: we are very confident that chlorine was used. we are not ruling out sarin right now.
reporter: i would like to follow-up on the question about the targets that you first examined and then triaged down to three tonight. it sounds like you went after facilities and not the weapons, as indicated earlier to minimize , accidental risk to civilians. in the targets that remain, would you characterize perhaps the ability to pursue it, to ramp it up again and again have chemical weapons? gen. dunford: i think it is too early to make that assessment right now. reporter: general dunford, did any russian defenses engage u.s., british or french ships or missiles? secretary mattis, were any of the strikes intended to kill bashar al-assad? gen. dunford: the only reaction that i am aware of of this time was syrian surface air missiles. i was at the military command center and was aware of that activity. i am not aware of any russian activity.
i am not aware of the full scope of the syrian regime response at this time. those are details we will pull together for you in the morning. sec. mattis: the targets tonight again, were specifically designed to degrade the syrian war machine's ability to create chemical weapons and to set that back. there were no attempts to broaden or expand that target set. ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming in this evening. based on recent experience, we fully expect a significant disinformation campaign over the coming days by those who have aligned themselves with the assad regime. in an effort to maintain transparency and accuracy, my assistant for public affairs, ms. dana white and lieutenant general mckenzie, the director of the joint staff. washington, will provide a brief of known details tomorrow morning. we anticipate at about 9:00 in this same location.
thank you again for coming in this evening ladies and , gentlemen. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable vision television companies. bring you unfiltered, -- coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court, and public policy of ensign washington, d.c. and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. earlier this evening, president trump announced the u.s. was launching airstrikes in syria.
cooperation with france and the u.k., in part of a response to the alleged chemical attacks taking place last week in, killing more than 40 people and injuring hundreds. his a statement was just under 10 minutes. pres. trump: my fellow americans, a short time ago, i ordered the united states armed forces to launch precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapons capabilities of syrian dictator bashar al-assad. with thened operation armed forces of france and the united kingdom is now underway. we think them both. tonight i want to speak with you about why we have taken this action. one year ago,